Since the earliest days in the mid 18th century, the gardeners at Kew have worked to maintain collections of plants from around the world. Many exotic plants need more warmth than the British climate can offer, some need high humidity, others can’t stand wet feet in winter. The earliest plant houses, like the Kew Orangery, offered winter protection but weren’t good for year round cultivation as they let in limited light. Nineteenth century developments in the construction of iron framed glasshouses opened up a world of new possibilities.
The Waterlily House, opened in 1852, was built to house specimens of the world’s largest waterlily, Victoria amazonica. It’s the hottest and most humid of Kew’s eleven plant houses and home to a healthy collection of tropical waterlilies, though the original giant waterlily has been rehoused in conditions that suited it better.
The Temperate House is said to be the largest Victorian glasshouse in the world. The 4,880 square meter floor area is divided between five linked structures rising to a height of 19 meters. It’s home to an internationally important collection of temperate zone plants including many rare and endangered species but just now the building itself, newly reopened after a long and costly restoration programme, is the centre of attention.
(Click on any image to view the gallery)